Nagasaki’s Proud Noodle Dish, Champon

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Champon

At first, casual glance, champon may look like ramen, but don’t be mistaken: Champon is decidedly different by pedigree, taste, and preparation. Further, unlike ramen, which has evolved in parallel, splintering into different varieties all across Japan, champon is the pride of Nagasaki, a small city in northern Kyushu island.

If you were to look at a map, you’d see that northern Kyushu is very close to Korea. In fact, there is regular ferry service between northern Kyushu and Busan, Korea. Over the centuries, this has led to cultural exchanges that other parts of Japan were not privy too. On the culinary front, one manifestation has been champon, which could be considered a cousin of ramen, but is different in a number of important ways.

One immediately visible difference between ramen and champon is the sheer number of vegetables you see piled high. Then there’s the strips of cooked egg, and seafood too. You don’t have the large slices of char siu (roasted pork) like with ramen, but rest assured there is plenty of pork packed in there alongside those veggies and all that seafood.

There’s more than just a difference in meats and toppings when it comes to champon versus ramen. Champon also strays far from the ramen path when it comes to the noodles themselves. This is because the noodles are cooked in the soup broth, not separately, as is the case for ramen.  Incidentally, it is into the vegetables and meats where, having been stir fried in a just a touch of lard (sorry for the foul language!), the soup and then the noodles are added.

By simmering the vegetables in soup broth, and then the noodles in that, champon instills an entirely different taste to the noodles. The sheer variety and volumes of vegetables also makes for more easily identifiable, fresher flavors.

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